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Do you have to know somebody to get in?


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#1 George Ebersole

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Posted 18 June 2010 - 06:34 PM

Some of you may know that I used to work on shoots in a support/grip capacity. I also stage managed and did a little AD work.

That was years ago, and I thought I might try to get back in, but failed these last couple of years because of other life problems.

When I told my aunt I was all about to give up, she replied "You have to know somebody!"

I love my aunt, don't get me wrong. She one of the most wonderful people on the face of this Earth, but that comment really stung. When I first went into this industry in the 80s, I knew absolutely no one. I called up a local studio, volunteered to work for free, and the rest is history.

Now I'm an older bald guy who's a bit out of shape, but I'm still willing to make a go of it given the opportunity. However, I'm wondering if what my aunt said was true, and whether I just got really luck all those years ago.

Can anybody enlighten me?

Thanks.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 18 June 2010 - 07:51 PM

Some of you may know that I used to work on shoots in a support/grip capacity. I also stage managed and did a little AD work.

That was years ago, and I thought I might try to get back in, but failed these last couple of years because of other life problems.

When I told my aunt I was all about to give up, she replied "You have to know somebody!"

I love my aunt, don't get me wrong. She one of the most wonderful people on the face of this Earth, but that comment really stung. When I first went into this industry in the 80s, I knew absolutely no one. I called up a local studio, volunteered to work for free, and the rest is history.

Now I'm an older bald guy who's a bit out of shape, but I'm still willing to make a go of it given the opportunity. However, I'm wondering if what my aunt said was true, and whether I just got really luck all those years ago.

Can anybody enlighten me?

Thanks.



No doubt that "knowing somebody" helps a lot. But if you don't "know somebody," then the goal is to get people to know you. How to do that? The short answer is "volunteer." You have to be willing to work for free until you happen to meet and/or work for someone else who can hire you on a job that actually pays money. That process could be fairly short (days/weeks) or much longer (months) or never (if you just don't manage to meet the "right" people).

The problem for most "older" people is that they have financial obligations that keep them from having the freedom to work for free (or for very very little) while working to meet the right people. Younger people typically have few bills or other responsibilities (like spouses or kids or cars or mortgages) so they have the freedom to just go where the wind carries them.

If you have previous experience and/or contacts, then obviously you go back to that well and use any and all advantages that you can. Otherwise, head to your local rental house or filmschool and start from scratch.
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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 18 June 2010 - 10:25 PM

You have to be willing to work for free until you happen to meet and/or work for someone else who can hire you on a job that actually pays money.


Brian, I thought we where trying to discourage our members from working for free?

R,
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 19 June 2010 - 12:14 AM

Brian, I thought we where trying to discourage our members from working for free?

R,



Well, true, but there are certain positions and smaller projects (ie: student films) where someone can get their foot in the door and work with other up-and-coming industry professionals. Some larger productions may agree to let a department (ie, Camera, etc) take on a volunteer/intern/"PA" at little to no cost to the production provided that the insurance issues involved with having a non-employee on the worksite are addressed. It's not likely that any production "of size" would want to "hire" someone on for free as A) anyone offering themselves up for no money is likely not a vetted "professional" and B ) professional productions generally crew up based on recommendations from the top down, so those at the top aren't likely to go to the "free" personnel to fill the most important positions.
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#5 George Ebersole

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Posted 19 June 2010 - 12:53 AM

Well, true, but there are certain positions and smaller projects (ie: student films) where someone can get their foot in the door and work with other up-and-coming industry professionals. Some larger productions may agree to let a department (ie, Camera, etc) take on a volunteer/intern/"PA" at little to no cost to the production provided that the insurance issues involved with having a non-employee on the worksite are addressed. It's not likely that any production "of size" would want to "hire" someone on for free as A) anyone offering themselves up for no money is likely not a vetted "professional" and B ) professional productions generally crew up based on recommendations from the top down, so those at the top aren't likely to go to the "free" personnel to fill the most important positions.

Well, I just hooked up with the wrong guy then. Thanks.
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#6 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 19 June 2010 - 09:23 AM

Well, I just hooked up with the wrong guy then. Thanks.


It happens. They say that "the cream rises to the top," but that isn't entirely true. While a person generally has to be at least "good enough" to "make it," I've seen plenty of more than qualified people not "make it" while some mediocre people seem to work consistently.

I think that there are a couple of reasons for this. One is that there is only so much room "at the top." Consider a glass of milk. While there's lots of space inside the glass, there is a limited amount of area "at the top" so while the glass might actually contain "half a glass" of cream, there is only enough room at the top of the glass for a small percentage of what's available.

Also, people tend to hire the "devil they know" instead of taking chances on something new. So, while a particular worker may not be "the best," if he/she is "good enough," it's a safer bet to hire the known quantity rather than taking a chance on someone new, who may or may not be a better choice. That keeps the mediocre person working for a lifetime while the newcomer, who may in fact be excellent, never really gets the opportunity to prove him/herself.

It is an immensely unfair system that doesn't necessarily promote the "best" pool of labor or the best products. It's rather haphazard, actually where there is no objective measure of a person or his/her quality of work to know whether he/she should be working or not. Perhaps a better way in every profession/industry would be some kind of apprenticeship system with specific formal education preceding one's attempt to enter the industry at a professional level. The best/most-promising people would be given the opportunities while those who aren't "the best" would find out and wouldn't linger on the fringes wondering when they too might "make it."
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#7 George Ebersole

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Posted 19 June 2010 - 11:59 PM

It happens. They say that "the cream rises to the top," but that isn't entirely true. While a person generally has to be at least "good enough" to "make it," I've seen plenty of more than qualified people not "make it" while some mediocre people seem to work consistently.

I think that there are a couple of reasons for this. One is that there is only so much room "at the top." Consider a glass of milk. While there's lots of space inside the glass, there is a limited amount of area "at the top" so while the glass might actually contain "half a glass" of cream, there is only enough room at the top of the glass for a small percentage of what's available.

Also, people tend to hire the "devil they know" instead of taking chances on something new. So, while a particular worker may not be "the best," if he/she is "good enough," it's a safer bet to hire the known quantity rather than taking a chance on someone new, who may or may not be a better choice. That keeps the mediocre person working for a lifetime while the newcomer, who may in fact be excellent, never really gets the opportunity to prove him/herself.

It is an immensely unfair system that doesn't necessarily promote the "best" pool of labor or the best products. It's rather haphazard, actually where there is no objective measure of a person or his/her quality of work to know whether he/she should be working or not. Perhaps a better way in every profession/industry would be some kind of apprenticeship system with specific formal education preceding one's attempt to enter the industry at a professional level. The best/most-promising people would be given the opportunities while those who aren't "the best" would find out and wouldn't linger on the fringes wondering when they too might "make it."

Uh, thanks. I know about favoritism and all that, but why can't an old guy like me, someone who's willing to work cheap and has set experience, get a break?

I'm good. I have an eye. I can write. I've got a willing mind and body. But it seems like I keep getting road-block after road-block tossed in my face.

*EDIT* Truth is maybe I'd be better off working at a TV station than trying to work on industrials and features.
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#8 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 08:53 AM

I have an eye. I can write. I've got a willing mind and body.


This sentence caught my eye. In this hyper-specialized industry, it's helpful to focus on a single job instead of letting people know how many different things you can do. Your first sentence (I have an eye) suggests that you wish to be a Cameraman. The very next sentence suggests that you wish to write and/or direct. Anyone who heard that wouldn't necessarily be inclined to hire you as a Cameraman. I don't know what your desire/goal is, but just judging from what I've read so far, if you can write and know your way around a set, then writing and directing is likely a better choice than Cinematography. If that is the case, then you're better off spending more time at a website like http://www.wordplayer.com while only keeping up-to-date on the latest in camera "news" here.

And really focus on the specific kind of writing and directing you wish to do. If it's features, then write features only and work hard to get represented by an Agent. Make short films and get them on the desks of people who have money for the features you want to make. Try to get your movies into festivals or even on TV. Use every contact you've ever made over the years. You never know who can do what for you.
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#9 George Ebersole

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 12:52 PM

This sentence caught my eye. In this hyper-specialized industry, it's helpful to focus on a single job instead of letting people know how many different things you can do. Your first sentence (I have an eye) suggests that you wish to be a Cameraman. The very next sentence suggests that you wish to write and/or direct. Anyone who heard that wouldn't necessarily be inclined to hire you as a Cameraman. I don't know what your desire/goal is, but just judging from what I've read so far, if you can write and know your way around a set, then writing and directing is likely a better choice than Cinematography. If that is the case, then you're better off spending more time at a website like http://www.wordplayer.com while only keeping up-to-date on the latest in camera "news" here.

And really focus on the specific kind of writing and directing you wish to do. If it's features, then write features only and work hard to get represented by an Agent. Make short films and get them on the desks of people who have money for the features you want to make. Try to get your movies into festivals or even on TV. Use every contact you've ever made over the years. You never know who can do what for you.

Thanks Brian.

I guess I've been a real idiot these last several years in more way than one. I've told this story many times, but I'll tell it again, I had am emphasis in writing in film school while I learned on set operations in the local industry, which started with an internship. I thought I might shoot what I wrote after I graduated.

Some people have really tried to help me in the last few years, but I guess I really screwed up big-time here.

Thanks.
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#10 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 01:15 PM

Thanks Brian.

I guess I've been a real idiot these last several years in more way than one. I've told this story many times, but I'll tell it again, I had am emphasis in writing in film school while I learned on set operations in the local industry, which started with an internship. I thought I might shoot what I wrote after I graduated.

Some people have really tried to help me in the last few years, but I guess I really screwed up big-time here.

Thanks.



"Screwing up" suggests that you KNEW what to do but chose something else. I don't think that it's the case with you or most people.

My story: I grew up in a place far from the "industry" and there was no one around to really explain it all to me. Plus, all of the books/resources at the time were wholly inadequate to explain how this industry truly worked. The Internet didn't exist yet.

So, like so many others, I went to "filmschool" and worked hard at a local PBS affiliate to get some kind of real practical experience. Four+ years later, I packed my car and moved to Los Angeles where Hollywood IS. Knowing just about nothing and possessing just a a couple thousand dollars and a few names to call, I began my path, learning along the way.

I "fell into" the Camera Department and continue there today, but had I known how this industry truly operates, I wouldn't be in the position I am today. Coming from television, where a person MUST multitask and be a Cameraman and Director and Editor and whatever else needs to be done, I entered the professional film industry woefully unprepared for the hyper-specialization that exists. On one hand, I was trained to be successful. On the other, I wasn't prepared to enter this world where you have to choose just ONE thing to do. The film-world isn't accustomed to people who CAN write, shoot, direct, edit, etc. It is a world that assumes that a person is capable of doing just one thing.

Fair assessment or not, that is the way this works, so all of us have to work within it to the best of our abilities. Had I to do it all over again knowing what I know about the industry now, I would of course do things VERY differently. The book I wrote and had published was partly a way for ME to figure out what the hell happened and why I wasn't where I wanted to truly be in the industry. NOBODY had written that book before to describe how all of this truly worked. I needed to learn for myself and I wanted to share that information with others in the best way I knew how.

So, no, you didn't "Screw up." It's all about knowing what arena you're attempting to enter and then doing everything you can, with whatever assets you have, to get where you wish to go.

If you wish to "shoot what you write," then I suggest putting aside the "shoot" part and concentrate on the "write" and direct part. Let someone else who has the passion to shoot, shoot your project. YOU should concentrate on writing and directing. There's more money and "respect" in those areas anyway. :)
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#11 George Ebersole

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 12:36 AM

"Screwing up" suggests that you KNEW what to do but chose something else. I don't think that it's the case with you or most people.

My story: I grew up in a place far from the "industry" and there was no one around to really explain it all to me. Plus, all of the books/resources at the time were wholly inadequate to explain how this industry truly worked. The Internet didn't exist yet.

So, like so many others, I went to "filmschool" and worked hard at a local PBS affiliate to get some kind of real practical experience. Four+ years later, I packed my car and moved to Los Angeles where Hollywood IS. Knowing just about nothing and possessing just a a couple thousand dollars and a few names to call, I began my path, learning along the way.

I "fell into" the Camera Department and continue there today, but had I known how this industry truly operates, I wouldn't be in the position I am today. Coming from television, where a person MUST multitask and be a Cameraman and Director and Editor and whatever else needs to be done, I entered the professional film industry woefully unprepared for the hyper-specialization that exists. On one hand, I was trained to be successful. On the other, I wasn't prepared to enter this world where you have to choose just ONE thing to do. The film-world isn't accustomed to people who CAN write, shoot, direct, edit, etc. It is a world that assumes that a person is capable of doing just one thing.

Fair assessment or not, that is the way this works, so all of us have to work within it to the best of our abilities. Had I to do it all over again knowing what I know about the industry now, I would of course do things VERY differently. The book I wrote and had published was partly a way for ME to figure out what the hell happened and why I wasn't where I wanted to truly be in the industry. NOBODY had written that book before to describe how all of this truly worked. I needed to learn for myself and I wanted to share that information with others in the best way I knew how.

So, no, you didn't "Screw up." It's all about knowing what arena you're attempting to enter and then doing everything you can, with whatever assets you have, to get where you wish to go.

If you wish to "shoot what you write," then I suggest putting aside the "shoot" part and concentrate on the "write" and direct part. Let someone else who has the passion to shoot, shoot your project. YOU should concentrate on writing and directing. There's more money and "respect" in those areas anyway. :)

Oh, I suppose so. It's just that the reason I took the path that I did was because I simply didn't have the money and resources to hire people and equipment. I figured I'd shoot something like I did with my friends back in middle school and high school. I'd gather the resources I'd need, then shoot my script.

It was my version of a low/no-budget approach. Once I got enough of those done, and, assuming they were good enough quality wise to earn some brownie points and recognition, THEN I'd be able to move up the food chain. Oh well. Cest la vie :) I'll never get there, but I'm cool with it. Doing it as a hobby is good enough for me.

But, to your points on the narrowness of the feature world verse broadcast; yeah, that always struck me as being odd. It did so because when I first entered the industry in San Francisco there were tons of indy projects and documentaries being shot at the time. I mean there were hundreds from Marin to San Jose and all counties in-between, though most of them seemed to come out of San Francisco and the Berkeley-Oakland area. And, on those productions, everyone did everything because they were so low budget. The grip would do boom work, or the sound guy, if he had nothing else to do, and we were shooting MOS, would help push the dolly. That kind of thing.

I know that sounds chaotic, but when you have no money, and are paying people with pizza, that's how things get done. It wasn't always like what I described, but, when I moved out of working on those kinds of projects, and moved onto industrials and features, I often wondered why the grip with his tool belt chatting with the hottie actress next to a 10k didn't help the gay set designer move a table. Some of those divisions of labor are necessary, but, at least to me at the time, they seemed overly emphasized.

In closing, I'll say this. I miss working on sets, stages, and locations. I got an ego boost of looking important as "civilians" (non-movie people) would look on in awe. I got a rush out of that :) But, it doesn't pay the bills. Still, I do miss media, and would like to be part of it in some capacity, if possible. That's probably not going to happen, but, like I say, I'm actually okay with it now :D
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#12 George Ebersole

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 11:43 PM

p.s. Bryan, that writing website looks dead as a doornail. I think I'll stick with my original plan, and get some tech training on the side while I work a regular day job.
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